Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Banned Book Week!

According to the American Library Association, here is a listing of ten classic books that are subject to being banned in American schools.  How many have you read?



1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Download Your Cybersmartz

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Let’s face it.  It’s a cyber world out there.  Here’s a quick list on how to be savvy on the internet and download your cybersmartz.:

Don’t plagiarize from the Internet.  Besides the fact it’s cheating, teachers are getting wise to this and chances of getting busted are excellent.

Don’t get in email or text wars.

Keep the peace at home and talk to parents about rules and guidelines for going online.  Agree to keep up with homework and that websites should be age-appropriate.

Never meet anyone online without telling a parent or checking with them first.

Nix the webcam.  Overall, not a good idea.

Don’t T.M.I. on myspace or other websites.  Before you know it, your overshare will go viral and you’ll be e-famous for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t be duped by those misleading banner ads.  Put the blinders on and ignore them.

Show good netiquette and never cyber-dump anyone.

Most cell phones are portable computers, so apply the same rules with your phone as online.

Blog rages may be all the rage but are tiresome to read.  Whatever you write can and will be held against you.

Think before you post.  Today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy.  And once something is sent, you can’t command Z it.

Keep all passwords private and don’t give away any personal information about yourself.

To avoid e-gret, play nice online.  If you don’t have anything positive to say, it’s probably best you don’t say anything at all.

Know your school cell phone policy.  Even if it’s loose, it’s best to keep your cell in your  backpack turned off along with your iPod.  Otherwise, there is a high risk of getting it stolen.

NEVER, EVER, EVER sext.  Remember, cyberspace lasts forever.

Don’t ever use cell phone to cheat.

Don’t let anyone text and drive.

Don’t believe everything you read online.

If you’re being cyber-stalked or harassed – get help immediately from an adult.

Don’t ever take or post pictures of people without their permission or knowledge.

Downtime is healthy; turn off your cyberworld and read a book or call a friend.





Cyber acronyms are cool to use when texting, emailing, or IMing.  Here are the basic ones to know and love:

BFF – Best Friend Forever
BTW – By the way
FYI – For your information
G2G – Got to go
IDK – I don’t know
IDC – I don’t care
IMHO – In my honest opinion
IMNSHO – In my not so honest opinion
L8R - Later
LOL – Laugh Out Loud
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
PAL- Parents are listening
PAW – Parents are watching
ROFL – Rolling on floor laughing
TMI – Too much information
TTFN – Ta Ta for now



TEXTS FROM CECEE TO LUCY AND LUCY TO CECEE


Hi Luce.  I miss u.  Want 2 hang out
tonight?  S.S. for everything.  You’re
right - should have told u about Kandi’s
invite.  Can u forgive and absolve me
for my horrible-ness?
C.



Hey CeCee.  Missed u 2.  Can’t hang
out 2-night.  Have 2 work on science
project or Kragler’s going 2 totally fail
me.
L.
P.S.  I was wrong 4 telling u not 2 publish
about the uniform thing.  S.S.



Want help on your project?
C.



Thx.  But have 2 do this 1
on my own.  Got myself
n-2 this mess.  How bout the
mall this wkend?
L.



4 sure.  R we still B.F.F.?
C.



Of course.  Luv u!  ☺





Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Students Acting Slothy? Teach Them Something Gothy!

The honeymoon is officially over, and it's about this time that students reveal subtle symptoms of slothy sluggishness.  Consequently, around late September/early October, I reach deep in my literacy bag of tricks for my go-to Gothic Literature unit.  Reading spine-tingling excerpts from Dracula, Frankenstein, or Edgar Allan Poe are all but guaranteed to reignite enthusiasm from my students and possibly even the most reluctant of readers who have yet to reveal their literary chops.  (My hope is, in keeping with the theme, they are merely keeping me in suspense!)




That said, before plunging into the dark world of castles, chambers, and creepy cloisters, students require background information on Gothic Literature itself.  It is at this time we examine five basic elements of Gothic Literature, which I have classified into the following categories:


5 Elements of Gothic Literature

1) Elements of Superstition
  • Presence of ghosts, vampires, etc.
  • Unexplained sounds, sights, occurrences
  • Eerie atmosphere
  • Mysterious tone adds to building of tension

2) Emotions and Passions
  • Emotion surpasses rationality
  • Spells of hysteria, lust, and anxiety
  • Frequent crying and screaming
  • Detailed sensory description revealing characters’ passions
  • Characters experience terror and hysteria due to miasmic atmosphere


3) Broken Families
  • Families are often broken, incestuous, or murderous
  • Women subject to lustful wrongdoings 
  • Male characters are tyrannical
  • Women depicted as damsels in distress
  • Family unit confining, from which characters must escape

4) Eerie, mysterious setting
  • Claustrophobic, dark venues such as an old castle, mansion, or abbey
  • Places of fear and dread that portray the world as deteriorating
  • Desperate, dark ruined scenery
  • Surrounding area is dismal and rotting, often adding a haunting flavor of impending doom


5) Distinctive Characters
  • Characters are lonely, isolated, and oppressed
  • Presence of a tyrannical villain 
  • Action revolves around an unrequited love, or illicit love affair 
  • A vendetta or vengeance is a prominent theme

After my students are fully inducted into the world of Gothic Literature, it's time for them to write their own stories.  For inspiration, I offer some creepy music, telling them to listen at their own risk.  (Note to Blog Reader: Play at your own risk!)




Assignment: Write a Gothic Story...

The requirements are as follows:
  • Setting must be a large old house or graveyard
  • An unexplainable, scary event occurs in the house or graveyard 
  • Presence of the supernatural, such as a ghost, vampire, or werewolf
  • Unexplained phenomenon, such as doors slamming shut or lights turning on/off by themselves
  • Highly emotional characters who cry and scream
  • Implementation of Gothic symbols, such as a staircase, shadows, or a full moon.  

With a little inspiration from the darker works of the literary canon, students can't help but get their Goth on.  Whether you are a teacher, writer, or simply have a nagging nostalgia for Manic Panic, it's the perfect time to reach inside YOUR creepy bag of tricks and write your own Gothic tale.  



For more literary Goth inspiration, go to Kimberly's product store at:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Musings on the Guidance Counselor a.k.a. Tween Whisperer

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

In middle school you will be assigned a guidance counselor who is sort of like a “tween whisperer.”  Guidance counselors take on a sympathetic view of the adolescent by providing academic and emotional support.  You see, we tweens are going through a difficult time (as if you needed reminding).  Changes are rapidly taking place physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and sometimes we need the ear of someone older and wiser who’s not a parent and or teacher.  Enter: The Middle School Counselor

You will probably meet with your guidance counselor at least once or twice a year.  Sometimes more, if you are having academic troubles or personal problems.  Either way, be open and honest during your one-on-one sessions.  Your guidance counselor is there for one reason and that is to support you.  Tell them what’s going well and what isn’t.  They’ve taken a lot of adolescent psych courses and know a lot about helping tweens.

Counselors provide support in a variety of ways.  You can use them to discuss or receive support both individually or in a small group setting.  Some of the things counselors can help with are:

Academic skills support
Test-taking skills support
Time-management and organizational skills
Career options and planning
Habitual discipline issues
Class schedule changes
Dangers of substance abuse, like drinking and drugs
Peer relationship support and mediation if needed
Counseling for stressful situations, such as tragedies, loss, or suicidal thoughts
Counseling for dramatized students who have trouble dealing with the stress of middle school


Dear Diary ~

After thinking about it all weekend, I wrote a request 2 see Ms. Clark about the whole cyberbully sitch becuz everyone knows cyberbullying is no joke.  Basically she had me show her all the text messages and took lots of notes.  Then she left 2 go talk 2 Mr. Payne.  Long story short, they traced the calls 2 Kandi Klass’s phone (big shocker) and now she’s N uber trouble with her parents and school police and may even get transferred 2 another school.  Imagine Madison Heights Middle School without Kandi Klass?

So after all the drama, Ms. Clark got all C.S.I. on me and started asking questions on how my year went and what she could do 2 help me succeed.  That’s when I just started telling her EVERYTHING that was buggin’ me.  Including that I’m flunking Life Science, lost my B.F.F., and totally getting stalked by Lyle Whitehurst.  Ms. Clark listened, nodded a lot, and then explained that seventh grade can be a confusing time but that I still need 2 control the chaos and focus more on my studies.  I knew that lecture was coming but somehow it sounded different coming from her.  She also suggested I stop racking up so many tardies (26) and detentions (5).  

Finally when I was about 2 leave, she asked who my B.F.F. was and I said CeCe Cruz.  She said, “Well, I hope you and CeCee make up. She’s a great girl.”  Then she smiled and said, “Keep it posi, Lucy.”

And I said, “Okay, Ms. Clark.  Later.”  

Hearts and sunshiny days ahead,

Lucy



*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


Dear Diary,

Today Ms. Clark summoned me during sixth period.  At first I thought it was something academic, like tutoring or picking up my awards from the assembly last week when I was home sick.  But I was wrong!  She wanted to get all intimate and personal, which isn’t my cup of Earl Grey.  So of course I was very guarded but then she hexed me with her adolescent psychological voodoo tricks - and it was like my private vault of secrets opened up for all the world to examine – or at least Ms. Clark.

Basically I confessed that I went to the doctor who said I have a predisposition to an eating disorder.  He said it was common among adolescent girls - especially ones who put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves, like yours truly.  I told her Mama is having me see a counselor to help deal with it.  Ms. Clark said she was relieved I went to the doctor and suggested I also meet with a support group of girls with eating disorders starting next Thursday, period 3.  I told her I’d be missing algebra and worried about falling behind but she said my health comes first.

That’s when I turned on the waterworks and started bawling like a baby.  I was completely mortified but then I didn’t even care because it felt so good to let it all out.  I told her I’m a second-rate, dishonorable friend with monstrous tendencies who lies by omission and doesn’t share anything with her B.F.F.  And then I told her I feel positively dreadful about my B+ in algebra and need to make straight A’s because I want to make everyone happy – most especially myself.  And then I came clean about Chase and how I was completely smitten but felt way over my head.

She listened really intently, nodded a lot, and then said I have oodles (yes, she used the word “oodles”) of time for guys and not to complicate my life in seventh grade with a serious boyfriend.  She also said to embrace the chaos of life and not try to control it so much.  There’s nothing wrong with a B+ now and then.

So when I was about to leave she asked who my B.F.F. was and I answered Lucy Pringle, and then she said, “I hope you and Lucy become friends again.  She’s a great girl.”

“Me, too,” I answered.

P.S. I’ve never been one for confession-sessions, but overall, it was an enlightening experience.  And I have to give it to Ms. Clark.  Adolescent psych voodoo aside, she’s very wise - kind of like Gandalf without the staff and beard.  

CeCee


Monday, August 25, 2014

Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids

This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at the Killer Nashville Writing Conference.  My topic - Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids.

Kids are innately attracted to suspense in books and movies for one simple reason - the adrenaline rush parallels the angst of adolescence.  Kids, (teens in particular), experience a personal connection on a psychological level as they writhe in their seats, wondering...What if?  Consequently, it makes perfect sense that kids make amazing suspense writers - if given the proper tools.      




"It was a dark and stormy night..."  

This is how most kids will begin their suspense story.  Not that there is anything wrong with dark and stormy nights.  Dark and stormy nights are very good when building a backdrop for suspense.  But in the interest of avoiding cliches, I introduce kid writers to the special formula of suspense writing:  G.E.M.    



G.E.M. is the acronym I coined for writing a "writhe-in-your-seat-worthy" suspense story.  It stands for Gothicism, Expansion of Time, and Magic of Three.

All suspense stories should have some elements of the gothic genre, such as the supernatural; an eerie, mysterious setting; emotion over passion; and distinctive characters who are lonely, isolated, and/or oppressed.  Throw in a tyrannical villain, a vendetta, or an illicit love affair - you've got goth gold!

Next, introduce the art of expanding time using foreshadowing, flashback, evoking sensory detail, and implementing "well...maybe dialogue."  This allows the writer to twist, turn, and tangle up the plot.  Tease your audience, I tell my students.  Pile on the problems and trap your protagonist with a ticking clock.  Every second counts with suspense!     

Finally, the Magic of Three comes into play.  The Magic of Three is a writer's trick where a series of three hints lead to a major discovery.  During the first hint, the protagonist detects something is amiss.  The second hint sparks a more intense reaction but nothing is discovered - yet.  And then - BANG!  The third hint leads to a discovery or revelation.  

Teaching suspense writing to kids breeds amazing results.  Once they learn the craft through G.E.M., they realize the power behind suspense and why audiences are drawn to it.  They recognize and appreciate suspense for what it is...the secret sauce of writing.

Remember what the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it."

So go mine your story, and find your G.E.M.  The clock is ticking...



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Killer Nashville Writers Conference



Join me next week at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference where I will be presenting "Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids."


August 24th at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, TN

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's That Time of Year...Teacher Types

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School 

teach• er |ˈtē ch ər|
noun
(official definition) – a person who teaches, esp. in a school; an adult role model who indoctrinates the younger generation intellectually, morally, and socially; one who helps others learn, as by example.

teach• er |ˈtē ch ər|
noun
(middle school student’s definition) – an adultish type person who slugs coffee, wears bad ties, frumpish jumpers, and who decided (due to his/her  own scarred teenage existence) to torture kids by inducing parental groundings through frequent phone calls home to report defective grades and deplorable behavior. Resulting outcome: avoid and ignore efforts; torture whenever possible.


Okay, J.K.!!  Teachers should be respected.  After all, most educators enjoy working with kids and some actually have something to teach us.  They are a guiding force in the molding of us adolescents and essentially our guardians from 8 to 3, Monday through Friday.  However, there ARE exceptions.  And the thing about middle school is you will have several teachers to deal with – not just one like in elementary school.  However, baring a few things in mind, you should adapt just fine.    

The first thing to realize about middle school teachers is there are certain types.  Nice and mean, right?  Actually it’s more complicated than that.  There are as many teacher types as there are personalities.  There are teachers who are nice, friendly, lenient, strict, dumb, smart, scary smart, funny, so-funny-they-should-be-a-comic-funny, boring, so-boring-they-put-you-in-a-coma-boring etc.  We’re going to focus on three basic types you will certainly come across in middle school, the telltale identifiable signs, and tips on how to deal with them to your advantage.  


The Taskmaster Control Freak/You-Ain’t-Doin’-Nothin’-in-My-Class/Lecturer
These types of teachers became teachers so they could hear themselves talk. The truth is that they have no interest in you or what you have to say. You’ll know them by the classroom arrangement, which consists of unyielding vertical rows with their bully pulpit lectern front and center. Don’t even think about asking to use the bathroom or going to your locker, as the hall pass is simply an accessory for the Taskmaster (i.e., not to be used). And, don’t get sick in their classrooms because you ain’t leaving! Their stock answer for everything is “No!” They have no sense of humor and no sense of mercy. We advise lying low in their classes, as their tolerance for any kind of adolescent shenanigans is nonexistent. Hand in your homework on time and keep a low profile. Cheating, passing notes, and otherwise acting up are unheard of in the Taskmaster’s classroom.


The Fossil/I-Had-Your-Grandmother-and-Will-Have-Your-
Children’s-Children-and-Never-Ever-Retire Teacher
The Fossil tends to linger in the math and science departments. They are well known throughout the local community—and for good reason. They’ve been around forever, and as a result, they have built a solid reputation. They’ve been around so long that their “Just Say No” antidrug posters from the ’80s have an inch of dust caked to them. They use the same old lesson plans, projects, and activities they’ve had since college. Basically, they do their jobs on cruise control and aren’t apt to press the accelerator anytime soon.


Mr./Ms. Good Time/I-Want-to-Be-Liked Teacher
Mr. and Ms. Good Time are usually young and fresh out of college, and their entire educational philosophy is based on being liked. These teachers tend to be easy graders and give less homework (with the exception of a deep fondness for projects) than the others. Their strength is creativity and working outside the textbook (think complete opposite of the Taskmaster). The best thing to do in Mr. and Ms. Good Time’s class is to get them off topic by asking some real-world questions. Also, convince them that a once-a-week party is academically beneficial and aligns perfectly with the standards. Other things to try are having them take you outside, watching teen angst movies, and throwing Game Day because it promotes personal development and self-esteem.

So good luck as you start middle school.  We know you will get "a handle" on those teacher types soon enough, but this should give you the jumpstart needed as you head to that first class.

Until next time...Hearts and Sharpies!
Lucy and CeCee